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Challenges of the Next Decade

There are a number of key challenges to any organization that will operate over the next decade. Globalization, corporate consolidation, ecological issues, increasing sensitivity to privacy and data ownership issues, and new governmental regulation must all be considered when designing marketing efforts.

Marketing across national boundaries creates challenges that once could only be profitably managed by large companies. Because the Internet immediately puts one’s products and service information at the fingertips of the world, it is important to be ready for the global customer from day one. In addition, one must be prepared for competition from very far away, for on the Internet, no one cares if you’re next door or halfway across the world, as long as the goods or services can be delivered in a timely, reliable manner. A publishing executive in Australia said he routinely orders his books from Amazon.com because they arrive in Australia within 48 hours, often months before the Australian bookstores get the same books.

Continuing merger and acquisition growth, and the increased number of strategic alliances, are altering the competitive structure of many industries. This creates opportunities for some ventures, and problems for others. Many new Internet ventures have been bought, often for large amounts of money, in order to reach their customer bases. Hotmail, started as a free email service, was purchased by Microsoft for more than $200 million so that they could have access to the 8 million members. But their aggressive expansion has led to over 80 million Hotmail accounts. Similarly, Yahoo! bought Overture, and eBay bought half.com to access technologies and large user bases. Acquisitions are also a method for gaining or improving domain expertise, customer references, and credibility in target markets. EMC is known as a data storage company. But did you also know they are in the top 10 largest software companies? To move into information management solutions, they have acquired Documentum, Legato Systems, and Astrum Software, just to name a few.

Other key issues for entrepreneurial marketers in the next decade include the changing demographics, values, and expectations of the population. In the developing world, the boomer generation will begin retiring in the early 2000s. At the same time, the lesser-developed populations are beginning to acquire technology and consumerism. China, India, and other parts of the world offer growth opportunities, but require closer cooperation with government, and better understanding of different cultures than most U.S. ventures have shown. The fact that these emerging growth countries are actively getting their citizens connected to the Internet allows foreign companies to inexpensively reach markets that would have been prohibitively costly with old media. Entrepreneurial marketers can take the lead in taking advantage of these new opportunities.

The key to any marketing that impacts sustainable competitive advantage is an understanding of “What am I selling to whom?” Chapter 1, “Marketing-Driven Strategy to Make Extraordinary Money,” begins to address this question.

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